2020 GSAE Annual Meeting In Person Toolkit for Members

NEW - GSAE-sponsored webinar, "Creative Solutions for Associations' 2021 Meeting and Conference Legal Challenges," recorded 01/12/2021 by Association Societies Alliance (ASA).

Background – What we faced April 1, 2020

GSAE’s Annual Meeting was scheduled for May 27-29 in Savannah, Georgia at the Hyatt Regency Savannah. As of March 11, 2020, we had 485 room nights, 130 registered attendees, full sponsor brackets and about 45 exhibitors. The Board of Directors approached the issue of cancellation versus postponement through the following 4 lenses: governmental, health, financial, and community.

This toolkit documents our journey from the beginning of the pandemic through our successful completion of our in-person event August 26-28, 2020.

Logistics Prior to the Event

Execution Highlights Onsite

  • Room set and f&b gallery - Facebook album
  • Hyatts Know Before You Go Flyer - clearly communicating the Hyatt app usage and changes at the hotel 
  • Hyatt's video for hotel guests - YouTube video
  • Our food and beverage menus with to go breaks, manned coffee stations, and identical food stations
  • Registration – one touch pick up for name badges, swag bags and raffle tickets
  • Electronic payments only, no cash
  • Online bidding for Silent Auction courtesy of Expo Auctions (bonus, we were able to open bidding to all GSAE members)
  • Audio Visual – increased order to add microphones to all breakout rooms so masked speakers could be heard.
  • Equipment was disinfected in between each breakout/each speaker during general session
  • Larger stage to accommodate physical-distancing
  • Breaks were extended to 45 minutes to ensure appropriate physical distances and movement of attendees through the hotel spaces
  • All meeting rooms were cleaned between sessions
  • Sessions – Identified multiple back-up speaker options to accommodate unexpected cancellations (we eventually had 8 speaker cancellations by the time we met).  Expanded number of breakout sessions from 4 concurrent to 5 and 6 to ensure appropriate room sets.
  • Classroom set of 20 and crescents of 24, respectively. In normal times, we would set each for 50-60 attendees. 
  • No swag was allowed on exhibitor or sponsor tables. It was a paperless event except for pre-stuffed promotions and learning journal.

Lessons Learned

  • Cost implications – room rental, staff travel, audio visual, signage are all fixed expenses
  • Pay attention to the fun - physically distanced games, opportunities to interact, shared experiences like a tasting or cooking demonstration will be utilized in the future
  • We will implement attendee “face” buttons (or caricatures) for future masked events
  • It was a struggle to keep staff and volunteer interactions at registration “warm and friendly” while remaining apart
  • Recognizing “work pods” and “travel pods” amongst our attendees. Those circumstances led to less diligent mask-usage occasionally. Gentle reminders alleviated the circumstances.
  • People cannot learn if they are not comfortable. Everything you do should support a safe, fun educational experience.


 Board of Directors - Data, Dates & Decision Trees documentation